Village council right in asking for accountability in Faleasiu

By The Editorial Board 14 September 2023, 10:00AM

If the claims by the Faleasiu village council holds grounds, then this points to a sad state of affairs when it comes to taxpayers’ money and the accountability process followed by some members of parliament in disbursing and using the SAT$1 million under the district development grant.

The village council is waiting for an explanation from their M.P. on how he used funds disbursed under the constituency's SAT$1 million district development grant.

The council has concerns that funding from the grant is allegedly being misused amid claims also that there is bias in how the funds are being disbursed to villagers – allegations which the Aana Alofi No. 1 M.P. Fesola'i Apulu Tuigamala, who is also the Associate Minister for Justice and Courts Administration, has strenuously denied.

According to one of the village's paramount chiefs, Sauvaoi Kapoti Maiava, the village called several meetings including one on Monday this week but the M.P. did not turn up.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Sauvaoi said the village has been kept in the dark about project allocations and operations since the inception of the district development grant, which has given rise to allegations of misuse and bias in funding allocation.

 The district development project is a great idea in helping the constituencies grow and advance, however, the use of the funds in some of the constituencies has to be questioned.

In Faleasiu, red flags should have been raised when the district office was being built on the land belonging to a family member of the member of parliament. The project only started last year and to think the landlord in this case was able to procure a boat and a truck from the rent that he was gathering, as explained by Fesola’i.

How much rent is being paid for the land and should rent really be high if the building itself was built using money that belongs to the people of Samoa?

The village council is also concerned about the disbursement of $300 that was supposed to be for the heads of family but given to others as well. There is no way of knowing if people genuinely used the money to buy equipment for farming and fishing. People are not showing receipts for their purchase. Where is the accountability here?

If the member of parliament is doing what he claims to be, then there would definitely be a paper trail which he could present to the village council and clear their doubts.

The other question is why do the villagers of Faleasiu need to pay a $10 registration fee to get access to grants which are meant to better their lives. This surely cannot be for administration costs and staff salaries, these things are supposed to be budgeted and given to the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development at the beginning so staff pay can be allocated accordingly.

A more accountable procedure is needed not only for Faleasiu but for other constituencies when it comes to taxpayers’ money. The district office needs to submit monthly financial reports to everyone in the constituency or have it available in the office so anyone can walk in and see how prudent spending is.

The Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development needs to intervene and check the finances and spending in this constituency to lay rest to the claims by the village council and affirm the statements by the member of parliament.

The district development project is an opportunity for many villages and districts to prosper and help their constituents. The funds can help even the poorest of families send their children to school ensuring that the future for those children is brighter.

Income generating projects which benefit the masses must be thought of and implemented. For example, a fishing community could do well with a large freezing facility and the fish could ultimately be destined for the export market. The profits of this operation are shared by everyone equally.

The district development projects could also be Samoa’s answer to meeting its Sustainable Development Goals. A recent report shows that in the Pacific most of the SDGs are way off track and only 12 per cent would be attainable.

The 17 SDGs include ending poverty, and hunger, having good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions, and partnerships for the goals.

The opportunity to meet these goals is provided by the $1 million grant every year, which totals $51 million every financial year and $265 million for the five years this Government is in power.

If the funds are used wisely, people will prosper, Samoa will prosper, if the funds are abused, then this whole exercise has been nothing but just a waste of taxpayers’ money which could have been utilised better elsewhere.

By The Editorial Board 14 September 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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